Vietnam is not trying to pull more countries into the East Sea issue to internationalize it since the issue is international in essence, a senior Vietnam Navy official said at the fifth ASEAN Naval Chiefs' Meeting Wednesday.
Nguyen Van Hien, Deputy Commander in Chief of the Vietnamese Navy and chairman of the Hanoi conference, said that sovereignty conflicts on the East Sea are multilateral issues and must be solved by multilateral cooperation.
It should not be solved by bilateral talks between countries involved as recommended by China earlier, Hien said.
He said it's impossible for two countries to discuss an issue that involves many countries.
The deputy commander said naval forces in the Southeast Asian region are facing "remarkable security threats", especially complicated developments on the East Sea.
Several actions by China have heated up the issue recently, Hien said.
In May and June, Chinese fishing boats intentionally rammed the survey cables of Vietnamese ships functioning within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Chinese boats have also violated the sea sovereignty of Vietnam on several other occasions, as also the sovereignty of other countries in the region including Malaysia and the Philippines, Hien said.
He said the actions, which violated international laws and threatened the sovereignty of countries in the region, have caused concern and attracted strong objections from international groups.
The security threat is big and a single country cannot deal with it alone, Hien said.
Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, Commander in Chief of the Malaysian Navy, also said that China's violations on the East Sea have affected many countries.
Aziz said the East Sea is an international water area and the maritime freedom and security on the sea is a matter of concern of many countries. China needs to respect that.
Hien warned that clashes would break out "if there's not a righteous common awareness and a determination for a peaceful solution."
Officials at the conference agreed to seek peaceful solutions from international laws including the International Sea Convention 1982 and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) 2002.
To cope with the complicated situation, the naval leaders decided to establish an official hotline between the navies.
Based on Vietnam's experience, Hien said a hotline works effectively for countries that share water borders.
Over the past several years, naval cooperation in the region in many areas including national defense, training, patrolling, rescue operations, as well as operations against smuggling, piracy and terrorism has developed well, he added.